Apples have been around for over 4,000 years, and there are now literally thousands of varieties of apples worldwide. Out of the more than 7,000 varieties classified in the United States alone, most apples fall within a 50-variety category. The apple is native to Europe and Asia, and is now also grown worldwide in temperate regions. The United States produces approximately one-third of the world's crop.
Apple HistoryThe word apple comes from the Old English aeppel. It's been around since the Iron Age and was cultivated in Egypt. In the first century A.D., the Roman Pliny the Elder listed thirty-six varieties of apples. There are many mythological associations over various civilizations, with the apple in the Garden of Eden being the most widely-known. Apple trees can live for hundreds of years.
The apple was brought to the United States by the Pilgrims in 1620. The French brought the apple to Canada. The first commercial trade of apples from the U.S. began in 1741 on Long Island, NY, with the product being exported to the West Indies.
One of America's fondest legends is that of Johnny Appleseed. There is truth behind this treasured story. John Chapman, born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774, is credited with planting over 10,000 square miles of orchards. He began in Pennsylvania, leaving his father's carpentry shop, and traveled barefoot, using a saucepan for a hat. He preached a Swedenborgian philosphy of life and lived as a vegetarian, surviving on buttermilk and bee pollen. He made it as far as Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he died in 1845 at the age of 71.
Captain Aemilius Simmons brought seeds to Fort Vancouver in Washington state in 1824. Two gents from Idaho, Henderson, Luelling and William Meek, began the commercialization of the apple industry in the Northwest U.S. Washington is now the top-producing apple state in the country.
Apples were an excellent commodity for early settlers, since they stored well and had many uses. Cider, apple butter and, of course, pies, were common uses. Apple bees were a festive occasion where the participants cored and dried apples for storage.
The most widely used method of slowing down apple maturation was pioneered by Frenchman Jacques Bérard in the early 1800's. The process is called "controlled atmosphere storage," which allows apples to be available year-round.
More About Apples and Recipes: Apple Selection and Storage
Apple Equivalents, Measures, and Substitutions
Apples and Health
Apples Photo © 2006 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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